Mini-states Down Under are sure they can secede
By Nick Squires in Sydney
You won't find them on any map but, in the minds of their creators
at least, they are as real as Brisbane or Bondi Beach.
As Australia wrestles with the issue of whether to become a
republic, it faces a constitutional challenge of its own as a
growing number of mini-states declare their "independence".
The trend started in 1970 when a West Australian farmer, Leonard
Casley, announced his property's secession as a protest over grain
quotas, proclaiming himself Prince Leonard of Hutt River Province.
Prince Leonard and his wife, Princess Shirley, continue to run their
tiny principality, issuing passports and welcoming thousands of
tourists a year.
Australia boasts about 20 "nations", each undeterred by the fact
that their existence has no legal foundation. Some are motivated by
ideology, others by a grudge against the local council or a
reluctance to pay taxes.
"There's a long tradition in Australia, borne of our convict
heritage, of showing disrespect for authority," said His Imperial
Majesty George II or George Cruikshank, a sales manager from
Sydney. "We've inherited the English love of eccentricity."
Mr Cruikshank, 38, has set himself up as the Emperor of Atlantium,
which consists of his one-bedroom apartment in the harbourside
district of Potts Point. It claims nearly 1,000 "subjects" from
Azerbaijan to Peru, with citizenship open to anyone prepared to fill
out an application form and pay £3 for an embossed certificate.
A few miles away, on the north side of Sydney Harbour, lives Prince
Paul of Wy, who seceded from his local council in November after 11
years of arguing over permission to build a driveway to his home.
He declared his property to be an independent principality on which
he could build what he liked - an assertion yet to be tested.
The Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea is founded on loftier
principles and consists of a handful of tiny islands scattered over
thousands of square miles of ocean off Queensland. It is billed as
a "homeland" for gays and lesbians and was founded last year as a
protest at the government's refusal to recognise same-sex marriages.
No one lives on the islets of the Coral Sea but the kingdom boasts a
high court, chief justice and an absolute ruler, His Majesty Emperor
While some mini-states come and go, Hutt River Province celebrates
its 35th anniversary this year. Princess Shirley, 76, claims to have
government documents that, she says, recognise the province as a
Constitutional lawyers beg to differ. "These states have no
recognition or status under Australian law whatsoever," said Prof
George Williams of the University of New South Wales.
"It's a nice way of thumbing your nose at authority but ultimately
it's just a fantasy."